The Essential Guide to Creating a Brand Strategy
A strong brand identity is a gravitational force that draws interest to your company and influences how people feel about it. Having one is especially important for B2B companies competing for big-ticket clients in competitive fields. When options abound for the solutions you’re selling, you need a way to differentiate and elevate yourself – and branding is crucial to that process. Consistent branding is known to increase revenues by as much as 33%.
Your brand goes much deeper than just your name and logo. It encompasses everything you want to convey about your company’s identity and vision. Your brand is all of the things that come to mind when somebody thinks about your company, so it’s not something you want to be shaped by random happenstance and off-the-cuff decisions.
To create a positive brand identity that accurately embodies all the great things about your company, you need to follow a brand strategy.
What is a brand strategy?
A brand strategy sets out what your brand is trying to achieve, from what your brand identity is through to what your overall business objectives are.
Some companies are blessed with organic brand identities. If you’re the last manufacturer around for an obscure but critical device or component, that in itself is a pretty strong brand identity. However, in the world of technology and business services, most B2B companies are up against a dense field of competitors. Your solution might have various advantages over the others, but to explain them, you have to convince audiences that you’re worth their time and attention.
A strong brand identity can give audiences a sense of who you are, what you do, and why you’re different before they seek you out for a specific solution. It can give you an “in” by doing some persuasive legwork before you even begin targeting a lead with marketing and sales outreach.
There’s one sure way to build a strong brand identity that conveys exactly what you want. You must develop and execute a plan that defines your branding goals and lays out the road map you’ll follow to reach them. That’s your brand strategy.
Why Your B2B Needs a Brand Strategy
Some people consider strong branding the province of B2C companies and unnecessary for sober-minded B2B buyers. This view presumes that building brand awareness is inherently gimmicky or non-serious, and that’s just not the case. For one thing, a wonky, strictly-business attitude can absolutely be part of a strong brand identity — just ask IBM. But more to the point, B2B buyers are still human beings and consumers, and they respond to the emotions that branding evokes.
A brand identity that carries positive associations is an incredibly valuable asset. A brand strategy shows you how to create your desired identity and gives you a way to track your progress along the way. Your reputation is a big part of it. It’s hard to maintain a credible and long-lasting positive identity if you aren’t backing it up with action. This includes the quality of your products and services, and interactions with your industry and the wider world. Keep in mind that 77% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that share their values these days.
Most importantly, your brand strategy provides the framework on which your entire customer acquisition process is built. With a great brand strategy, business flows in. Without one, your business founders, like a lost ball in tall weeds.
What are the essentials of a brand strategy?
There are many different ways to put a brand strategy together, and it can be as detailed as you need. The five questions below form the basis for outlining your strategy and defining your branding goals:
1. What are your brand values?
In a politically polarized world, it can be risky to state the values your brand upholds explicitly. Still, they matter greatly to customers, and studiously avoiding any mention of them can be perceived as a statement in itself.
2. What is your brand mission?
What is your brand trying to achieve in the world? Your mission follows from your values, delineating the specific things you’re trying to do to live up to them.
3. What does your brand promise?
Trust is the cornerstone of a good brand reputation. One of the most effective ways to build it is to make promises and keep them. You have to let your customers know what you’re going to do for them and then deliver on it.
4. What is your brand’s identity?
Draw somebody a Nike swoosh on a scrap of paper and ask them what it calls to mind. You’ll get an immediate response: athletics, victory, Michael Jordan. A strong and consistent visual identity will immediately trigger the feelings associated with your brand. But don’t forget that your identity also includes non-visual elements, like audio jingles and your brand “voice.”
5. What are your brand taglines?
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a strong brand identity needs some words of its own too. A catchy and memorable phrase that verbally sums up what you’re about is a concise way to evoke your brand associations over text or audio.
Since so much marketing and communication takes place over social media now, it can be helpful to think about leveraging your social media presence to meet your strategic branding goals. But before you get deep into itemizing the specific methods you’ll use to execute your plans, you need to create a foundation for your brand strategy. This is done by brainstorming answers to the questions above and selecting those that best reflect your ideal brand identity.
How to Create Your Brand Strategy Essentials
Most of the work involved in developing a brand strategy is brainstorming: coming up with ideas and narrowing them down to the best. However, you don’t want to just arbitrarily define your strategy essentials based on personal preferences.
If your brand values include “environmental stewardship” and your mission is “to heal the planet,” it’s just going to confuse people if you choose a dystopian industrial aesthetic for your visual identity. You want all of the elements to complement each other, which means digging deeper into the facts about what your company does, how you do it, and who you’re engaging with:
- Customers – Who is your audience, and how well do you know them? Your brand identity needs to resonate with them, so use your research data to create the best customer personas you can. Then make sure your strategy is squarely aimed at reaching them.
- Competitors – Who is competing for the same customers and market share as you? Your brand identity has to set you apart from them and highlight the unique value proposition that makes you the better choice.
- Market Position – Among your competitors, where do you sit in terms of pricing, product quality, depth of support, and other relevant factors? Toyota and Mercedes will both sell you a mid-size sedan, but they occupy very different positions in the automobile market.
- Vision – What is the ultimate big-picture goal for the company, the legacy it wants to create?
- Values – What truly matters to your company and the people who work there? What kind of positive change would you want your company to create in the world?
- Mission – What is it you all show up to work to do every day? What are you trying to accomplish? Your mission should be in close alignment with your vision and values.
- Story – How did your company get here? What inspired the founders to start it? Some brands may have more compelling stories than others, but audiences always want to know a little bit about why your brand exists and where it came from.
- Identity – How will people recognize your brand? Your brand identity typically includes your logo, colors, typefaces, design styles, imagery, taglines, and other reproducible elements that define and evoke your brand.
- Messaging – What are you saying to your audience? What do they need to know about your brand?
- Tone – How are you saying it to them? What kind of personality is conveyed through your communications? Is your brand voice earnest, humorous, authoritative, enigmatic, or something else entirely?
By considering these factors and making choices about how you want to shape your brand identity, you can start brainstorming ideas for the essentials of your brand strategy.
How to Use the Brand Strategy Template
The Brand Strategy Template includes the essential strategic elements: Values, Mission, Promise, Identity, and Tagline.
First, research each of the factors that feed into each element. After those have been determined, use them as a framework for brainstorming specific ideas.
Once you’ve got strong concepts for your essentials in place, you can start figuring out the concrete action steps you’ll need to establish and maintain your brand identity. Then, you can use the finished template to inform your marketing campaigns, content development, social media, and other activities.
It Takes Strategy to Build a Great Brand
A strong and positive brand identity can play a huge role in a company’s success and longevity. By creating a brand strategy and following it systematically, it’s possible to craft a compelling brand identity that conveys all of the best things about your company.
When your template is filled out, and your strategy has been created, your next step is to implement it. With a brand social media strategy and a robust B2B social media management platform, you can start sharing your voice, promoting your values, and defining your brand identity in the most active online spaces where your audiences congregate. Soon, your brand will have the kind of magnetic identity that brings quality leads to you consistently.